Monday, December 18, 2017

Southern California, Part II

Now I know that I can split my years in Southern California into two parts. It wasn't enough to find out on Bing that to get from where I live in Ventura to Downtown Disney in Anaheim is close to and a little above two hours, depending on the route. I needed to see it on a map, even a partial map, as the case was with postcards I bought as bookmarks at a cozy gift shop at Ventura Harbor Village yesterday, one of them a map of Southern California.

There's Anaheim, with Buena Park just slightly north of it. Let eyes wander past Carson, Montebello, through Los Angeles, up to Simi Valley, and diagonally to the top left where Santa Paula is, and Ventura doesn't show up. But we're up there. Going from that Highway 150 marker at the top left, back down to Anaheim? Yeah, that's a distance. So the Southern California I knew from 2003-2012, from when I was 19 up until I was 28, is practically no more for me. It's true, anyway, because the Po Folks restaurant my family and I loved so much in Buena Park closed years ago, a staple for us when we lived in Florida, where I grew up. I can't pine for what's no longer there. I can imagine that it might be interesting to visit Pasadena again at the time of the Rose Parade floats being on display the day after the parade, but would it really be worth that drive? Certainly, with how long it would take to get there, the expectations would be even higher than they ever were before. Sure, the distance is less at only an hour and 13 minutes to an hour and 26 minutes, but on one January 2nd, when we were living in Santa Clarita, we left at 5 in the morning to get there by 7 so we could get in early to see the Rose Parade floats before the crowds built up. I don't think we'd try to do the same thing from here in Ventura, because from Santa Clarita, it was closer.

I don't mind perhaps not seeing that again, nor not going to Universal CityWalk either, or even visiting the Getty Center as often as I might like. In fact, we didn't do it that often when we lived in Santa Clarita, but it was a revelation every time, of the heart, mind and soul. Even so, we are here in Ventura, I'm now 33, and things change. Life changes.

To that end, this is indeed Southern California, Part II, smaller and more focused on what I want and need in my life, what's important to me, rather than the ephemera that was Universal CityWalk and other attractions. I'm still young enough, certainly, but I'm getting older. What do I want to do? Where do I want to be? What matters?

Here, it's having an actual downtown area, which I've never had accessible anywhere we've lived. Downtown Henderson was a drive that took us past the Fiesta Henderson casino, in an area that felt like a no-man's land, and while it was pleasant enough with City Hall there and a few smaller casinos, it wasn't enough to sustain an extensive amount of time. In Florida, at least when I was there, I don't remember there being such a thing as downtown Pembroke Pines, for example. In Ventura, all I have to do is take the 6 bus, and there's the Foster library, there's the movie theater, there's many different places to eat, many of which we still have to try. There's the Bank of Books bookstore, with no air conditioning, which the library also boasts, along with the Calico Cat Bookshop, which is sweatier than Bank of Books. And set further back from the library, up the hill, are two houses I adore, one built in a Queen Anne Style just after 1900 and historically preserved (a construction company called McCarthy is headquartered there), and a two-story house for sale by Berkshire Hathaway with a half-wraparound porch. If I could hit the lottery early enough for a few hundred million, I would buy that house and the old church diagonal from it that was a bed and breakfast before it closed. That would be my piece of Ventura.

In Ventura, it's also having three local libraries now, as opposed to two just a few months ago. It's the E.P. Foster Library downtown, the Ventura College library which is closed now from two days ago until January 7th, and then it opens on January 8 for the start of the spring semester. That disappointed me because I had hoped to check out the 1998 anthology A Southern Christmas for something to read to lead up to Christmas, but with the wildfires and the campus being closed due first to the fires and then to the pervasive smoke, that didn't happen. However, I may check it out when the library reopens, because I don't think I feel like waiting until Christmas starts to come around again.

Now there's also the Hill Road Library, just up the street from where I live on the east side of Ventura, past the Government Center where I took a test to qualify to be considered for a library page position, and where I'll go again early tomorrow morning to take a test in order to qualify for a librarian technician position (essentially the people behind the counter who help with searching for books and setting up library cards for new patrons). The size makes it more of an express library, something small for the community to come in, browse, and go, for the sake of convenience. If they have a little more time, they can certainly stay. It was also the first grand opening of a library we had ever been to, and I already had two books in mind even before we went, that I knew the new branch had: The Cooking Gene by Michael Twitty and Strays: A Lost Cat, A Homeless Man, and Their Journey Across America by Britt Collins. We got into the library before the festivities began, so I made a beeline for where those books were and I got both of them. Brand-new copies. In fact, that's one of the happy things about this new library: Most of the books there are brand-new, and there's still more to come. What I couldn't find readily from other branches is well-stocked here. Plus, I can walk to this branch whenever I want, though not ignoring the Foster library not only because of my love of the downtown area, but also because they have extensive stacks, with nonfiction books dating back decades even, novels, too. I like browsing through history like that. I hope they keep that going.

Let's see what else. There's my grilled pork sausage spring rolls and Vietnamese iced coffee at Pholicious in the food court at the Pacific View Mall, halfway to downtown. The mall is considered Midtown Ventura. There's the generous ham-and-cheese croissant at Master's Donuts at the start of the Walmart shopping center on South Victoria Avenue. I've tried a few other ham-and-cheese croissants at other donut places and this is the only one that really stuffs it well. There's the donut place a few doors down from Discount Grocery Outlet far down on Telephone Road, where they automatically cut the croissant in half for me (not that I want it that way, but I like learning about the different styles of donut places in Ventura), but I prefer Master's Donuts' croissant.

Oh yes, and if you turn off of Main Street downtown onto Thompson, there's the beach right in front of you. I can't forget that part because it's pretty much the main reason I was impatient to move to Ventura when it became possible: I was born and raised in Florida, therefore born to ocean breezes, and I needed ocean breezes back, desperately so after five years in the Mojave Desert. I'm not the sort like my sister and my dad to walk in the sand or get close to the waves. I like just sitting on a bench looking out at the ocean, simply in awe. To have it whenever I want now is still a little unreal to me. I'm still getting used to such pleasure close at hand.

There's still more to come, I'm sure. I haven't yet been to the Regency Buenaventura 6, Ventura's second-run movie theater, in the same shopping center as WinCo. This, despite them still showing Only the Brave, which came from Joseph Kosinski, one of my favorite directors. Job hunting is just slightly more important at the moment.

Reading that back, I feel like I have covered everything here. I've been to every part of Ventura, I've seen all of downtown, though I still want to walk through Mission San Buenaventura at nearly the end of downtown. Yet it doesn't make me wish for Downtown Disney or Universal CityWalk, or even Buena Park, which I liked because of its heavy ghosts of history that hang there. Even knowing as much of Ventura as I do now, there's still the history to learn. That continued yesterday in that gift shop with one of the postcards I bought. When I looked at this aerial photo of Downtown Ventura, I noticed that what's now the Crowne Plaza hotel used to be a Holiday Inn. I'm not sure yet how many years back that goes, but I want to know. That reminds me that there's also the Museum of Ventura County I haven't visited yet, where I'd hope for some room for me to work in their research library. I need to call the director of that library to find out how often a position might open there because they work within the same budget that's also for the Ventura County libraries. I'd like to be steeped in that history.

I've gone all this way and I almost forgot the Salzer's Music and Salzer's Video stores, across the street from each other on Valentine Road. I've bought DVDs from both places already, while searching each time for a copy of Employee of the Month, the one with Dane Cook and Jessica Simpson. Before, it was a frantic search because I had seen a few minutes of it on Comedy Central when we were staying at the La Quinta Inn on Valentine, waiting for our new apartment to be ready to sign for, and then for the movers to finally show up from Las Vegas, and I thought it was funny as hell. Last month, I saw it in full on Comedy Central and yeah, it was still funny, but the plot was labored, and the search isn't as urgent now, but I still want to listen to the audio commentaries for it. Each Salzer's store is great to browse and get lost in for a little while, not just to search for a specific DVD.

I actually don't miss the tumult of getting to downtown Los Angeles, even for a french dip sandwich at Philippe's. I don't miss us trying to find a space in the parking lot at Downtown Disney. But I do miss Porto's Bakery and Cafe, a Cuban paradise in Burbank, and if we ever get back there, I'm not only starting with my beloved mango mousse before moving on to my standard Cubano sandwich, but I might just try their roasted pork sandwich too (owing to my deep love of roast pork, started by #1 Hawaiian Barbecue near McCarran International in Las Vegas in that Walmart shopping center), then go on to another mango mousse, and take home at least two trays of mango mousses. I'm dead serious about that.

While I don't like what we had to go through in five years in Las Vegas and Henderson, it's interesting to have a clean break between Southern California lives and for each one to be completely different. Even with still looking for a job, I think I'm more content with Part II because we're not landlocked (including our nine years in Santa Clarita, we were landlocked for 14 years, all told), we can breathe better here (except for the smoke from the Thomas Fire lately, which has lessened, but it's still worrisome for our part of this region. It hasn't come back, but it still affects all of us), and there's a slightly slower pace to life here. I still have to adjust to that, but I'm getting there. This feels like it could be the right kind of life.